0631 – optimize for years, not days; improve skills by learning specific new things

I missed a vomit yesterday because I was so tired and sleepy – which means that I gotta do two today. But if I just do one, that would be okay too, as long as I keep the streak going. A slight silver lining is, I do feel like I didn’t do the vomit yesterday. As in, often when I miss things or skip things, I tend to forget that I did that. But this time I did not, this time I remembered. So it’s a sign that at least the habit is building, a little bit, maybe. Too early to tell. The important thing is to get back on the wagon ASAP and keep going.

What do I want to write about… I was thinking in the shower in the morning that I wanted to write about the idea of productivity. This would be useful for another blog that I’m planning on doing. What is productivity? When did the idea originate? The word produce is latin in origin, and it means to bring forth.

My first thought is that productivity might’ve been invented by industrialization. That’s definitely where it started to get broken down into components and widgetized, in the modern supply chain sense with bottlenecks and constraints and throughput and such. I have an odd relationship with those terms – a part of me is very turned off by them, a part of me is very eager to dig deep into them and really make sense of it all. It’s funny because even wanting to solve the problem requires carving out time to solve the problem, and if you were good at carving out time for yourself, you wouldn’t have the problem.

But on further thought, surely productivity mattered before the industrial era. It would’ve mattered in the agricultural era. It would’ve mattered when it came to making tools of war. There’s probably a ton of nuance here that I’m not sensitive to, and there’s probably a lifetime’s worth of reading to be done here. So at this point I gotta zoom out and ask myself again – what am I trying to make sense of here?

Productivity. Why I care about it. Why other people care about it. Why it is a feature of our lives, and what to do about it. Is it worth it to be productive? I’ve actually really witnessed compelling arguments from both sides. Are there only two sides? I do remember being really miserable when I was a teenager who spent months and months doing very little. I would have been much happier if I had learned something, if I had grown, if I had picked up a new skill –

I’m suddenly thinking of another thought I had – which was something like, we optimize for minutes, hours and days, when we should (at least simultaneously) be optimizing for decades and years. Like, on a given day, you’re not going to make much progress learning a new skill. You’re not going to learn to play the guitar in a day, week or month. It will take several months to get semi-decent.

But on any given day, if you want to have a good day, “start learning a new skill” is not going to feature highly on it. Whether we’re talking about learning to code, learning to dance, learning to play guitar or whatever it is that you don’t currently know how to do – chances are that when you start something new, you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to face pain and discomfort. This is a cost that you have to accept. It can be slightly mitigated maybe if you have a great teacher or some sort of highly structured learning environment, but no matter what learning is going to involve some amount of mistake-making.

The thing is, each new thing that you learn becomes something powerful and useful. It becomes a new way of making sense of the world. Writing does that. Drawing does that. Filmmaking does that. Music does that. It gives you ways to express yourself.

When you’re starting out, ‘self-expression’ is not quite a possible thing, because you don’t quite know how to even operate the dang instrument in your hands. It’s all noise.

And what is the self, anyway, but a bunch of noise…?

Not sure where I’m going with that. I’m trying to visualize– a person, which is a sort of contained blob, intefacing with an instrument, which is a sort of series of switches – a string, a tube, some sort of object that responds in a variable way depending on how you tinker with it. And then you have an audience, I suppose, whether it’s just the musician alone, or some group of people. I’m guess talking about the tree of talking now – the communication process.

200 words to tie this all together – so what if becoming productive is something like getting good at playing a musical instrument, where the instrument is your life? The instrument is your body, your hands, your mind… does that work? There’s still something a little missing from the picture here…

I guess I could try to put everything through a musical lens and then get it back out. What do I want for myself as a musician? I’m probably never going to be a professional musician, but I’d like music to continue to be a part of my life. But so what does that mean? I have guitars in my house, I have access to music on my laptop via the Internet. I don’t want to have a ridiculously rigorous, structured approach to ‘getting more musical’, I want it to be fun. And yet at the same time, I feel like my current approach of “let’s just leave the things around and see what happens” hasn’t quite been working out for me. By that I mean, it hasn’t quite been fun. Fun isn’t just noodling around, fun is learning new things, being able to do more than I was able to do last month, last quarter, last year. To do that I need to seek out specific things to do. Learn a particular song that I don’t know how to play. I should always have at least 1, up to maybe 3-5 things that I’m trying to learn. This is a bit of difficulty, but getting it right and locking it in will expand my abilities, which is very life-affirming.

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